The Borjomi – Bakuriani railway is a 2,5-hour wondrous ride on the edge of a steep cliff, undulating along the river and through an enchanted forest of conifers. In January, the valley is covered with snow and so for just 2 GEL, you can spend a cheerful morning traveling through this winter wonderland of Caucasus.
We’ve been staying in Borjomi for more than a month by the time we finally took the train to Bakuriani – if you are in for a romantic adventure (or a hike without, you know, actually hiking) or simply want to enjoy the vibe of the past, smelling fresh air from the little porch of the wagon, watching diaphanous snowflakes wrapping the green twigs pass by at just 20km/h…then this tramway ride should be on your radar when you visit the fair town of Borjomi.
In this article, you will find out where, when and how to take this nostalgic tramway ride, but also a tad about its history and surprising facts. I took the Bakuiani train twice so the photos are a combination from these two trips.
Narrow-gauge train to Bakuriani
History of the Kukushka train
The construction of the railway between Borjomi and Bakuriani was started by the royal family of Romanovs at the end of the 19th century and was finished four years later – the hard terrain didn’t allow for a faster progress. The first train, back then with an English steam engine, rode the narrow gauge line in 1902. Since the sixties, the tramway operates with a Czech electric engine.
The train is nicknamed “Kukushka” which means cuckoo in Russian – the name likely originates from the whistling sound of the old steam engine of Porter type.
An interesting part of the railway is the Eiffel bridge between Tsagveri and Tsemi, constructed by the famous engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, architect of the Eiffel tower. The red bridge with an industrial functionalist look was made in France, brought to Georgia in parts and assembled in 1902.
Tramway ride across a winter wonderland
We jumped up into the Kukushka tramway one Saturday morning and were surprised to see it was already full – it was not even half past ten, but skiers, locals, and visitors were already sitting in their seats, snacking on sunflower seeds and peeking from the windows.
The tiny train waited until 10:55 and started moving slowly; we were looking from the windows at first, but once we entered the forest, we went out and spent the rest of the ride enjoying the views from the doorstep.
Read more: How to rent a flat in Georgia (on a budget)
Inside, children’s’ squeals were mixing with loud talks and different perfumes hanging in the air but outside, we could admire the forest, gradually getting colder and whiter as the train threaded up the railway.
We stopped in villages and watched the old train stations, half fallen apart, reminding of another era.
The tramway was recently renovated but the feel of old times remains – as it climbs the steep side of the valley, I feel as if we’d been taken on a journey through the past.
We sip the hot tea we have brought with us in a thermos and watch frozen droplets of water, wrapping naked twigs of the trees; if you’d reach out, you could easily touch them, but the train goes on and soon you are amazed by the views of the mountains covered with snow. The river sparkles down below and smoke rises from the chimneys then the scene disappears again as we enter the forest.
The town of Bakuriani
Bakuriani is particularly popular for skiing and if you are here to ski or snowboard, but have no equipment, you won’t leave disappointed. You can find all the equipment you need and rent it directly in Bakuriani – it costs about 10 GEL per hour or 30 – 60 GEL per day.
There are three slopes fit for snow enthusiasts but there is also an ice rink where you can skate. Otherwise, there are all kinds of attractions in the park such as roundabouts, snow scooters and sleighs for rent.
Bakuriani tramway in winter
Taking the old-world train to Bakuriani was one of my favorite things to do in Borjomi; I felt it was insanely romantic to ride across the forest up the steep hill, hand in hand, sipping hot tea while the winter landscape passes you by.
The ride is obviously very popular with couples, but also families with young children and locals who use it to access their homes.
If you are visiting Borjomi, Khashuri or are in the area, love long train rides and enjoy the nature, don’t miss the opportunity to take this quirky tramway!
Have you taken any peculiar train ride during your travels? Have other tips for what to do in Borjomi? Share your ideas with me in the comments!
Read more about Georgia:
We’ve been in Georgia for more than half a year and visited many amazing places – I am still trying to catch up on all the writing! In the meanwhile, you can read my articles about my favorite places worth visiting in Georgia: We’ve spent almost a month in Kutaisi and really enjoyed its laid-back vibe and all the monasteries we visited nearby. Afterwards, we hitchhiked to Ushguli which is the highest continuously inhabited village in Europe and famous for its uncommon architecture. I took two weeks to do a physiotherapy in the healing waters of Tskaltubo near Kutaisi, a favorite spa destination of Stalin himself. From there, we went to the border town of Ninotsminda and on to Armenia for three weeks. We were unorganized enough to even overstay our Armenian visa. After we came back, we shortly visited Tbilisi where we randomly met an old friend from Ushguli. We continued to Dedoplistskaro in the east of Kakheti where we enjoyed some beautiful hikes, one of them a three-day trek across the wilderness of Vashlovani national park.